Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Conversation Pieces

  What do you say when someone says ‘How are you?’ When someone asks me that, I generally have to stop and think about it because I don’t think much about how I am. If I’m doing OK, I’ll say “I’m OK”; if I’m doing good, I’ll say “I’m doing good’. Every so often I’ll say “I’m great!” and if I’m feeling bad I’ll say “Hanging in there” because even though I’m feeling bad I’m not giving up. If I’m feeling impish I’ll say “Worst day of my life” just to see if the person asking me is even listening.

  I’ll say hi to everyone I know but I don’t ask too many people how they are. It’s not that I don’t care (although in many cases I don’t) but I’ve noticed I just get the same answer from the same people and it seems like a lot of wasted effort. There was one guy at work that would always say “super-fantastic” and I hope he was. If you want to see if someone is listening after they say ‘How are you?’ and you don’t want to say “Worst day of my life”, just say “I’m fine” and nothing more. If your mileage is anything like mine, at least half the time your partner in conversation will tell you their stock “How are you?” answer followed by an uncomfortable pause.

  If someone at a cash register or waiting on a table says “How are you?” to me, I will always tell them and ask “How are you?” right back. I like to do this because I hardly ever see anyone do this so I expect the service person would like to be asked and also because it generally takes the service person by surprise and one of my many quirks is that when I talk to strangers, I like to catch them off guard. One of the most common responses I hear when I ask “How are you?” is “Not too bad”. I have no idea what that means. If they’re not too bad they could be anything from really great to really, Really, REALLY bad. Here I am asking a simple question and I only get a sliver of an answer. Could you imagine asking somebody what the weather was outside and having them tell you, “It’s not too cold”. How about asking somebody the score of the big game and being told, “It’s not three to nothing”. If somebody asked my how a movie ended, I wouldn’t say “They didn’t all die!” Maybe the next time someone asks how to get to Route 30, I’ll just point in a random direction and say “It’s not that way”.

  I’ve always struggled with how to reply when someone tells me they’re “not too bad”. I used to say “I didn’t ask you how you aren’t.” but most people look at me like I have three eyes when I say that. I guess if they could follow that kind of logic they wouldn’t have said they weren’t too bad in the first place. Eventually, I gave up and now when someone tells me that they are “not too bad”. I just slowly repeat the words “not…too…bad”, which ends the conversation pretty quickly. Yesterday, I was getting gas at the Kum & Go in Marshalltown and the clerk said she was “well” and thanked me for asking.

  Another un-favorite phrase of mine is “No problem”. This is a fairly common reply I get when I thank someone for helping me. Maybe “no problem” means that I don’t need to thank anybody because it was “no problem” to help me, At least that’s something called the Wiktionary website says. I always take “no problem” to mean that if it was a problem I wouldn’t have gotten any help as opposed to a statement on the level of effort on the part of the person helping me. I’ve yet to thank anyone and have a reply like “You should thank me. It was a big problem to help you!”

  It’s bad enough to need someone’s help and even worse to be told no problem when you thank them but when I thank a customer service person and then they tell me it was “no problem” to help me that really riles me up. I always want say “I’m so glad that it was no problem for you to do your job” but I never do.

  In New Jersey, I had a guy named Marty working for me. Marty always said no problem when I asked him to do something. I eventually got him to stop saying it around me. One time we went to lunch and on the way back I stopped to get some gas. As New Jersey requires, the attendant came out, filled my tank and I paid him. The attendant gave me $10 too much change so I called him over and gave him his ten-spot. When the attendant thanked me, I deliberately said “No problem”. Marty was looking at me with a shocked expression and I told him that is really was no problem for me to give the attendant HIS money back.

  Something I hear a lot now instead of “Good-Bye” or “See you later” or “Have a nice day” is “Have a good one”. I know I’m getting old because I don’t have a clue what that means. Why only one? Can’t I have a good two? How about three? Saying “Have a good one” sounds kind of cool, but I’m afraid to say that to someone I don’t know. What if they’re going to a funeral? Or to a chemotherapy session? I wonder if death row inmates say “Have a good one” to each other?

  If you were to ask me how my football playoff picks were doing, I’d have to say pretty poorly. I was ahead by $190 going into the Ravens-Patriots game 2 Sundays ago. I had picked the Patriots and even though they were driving up and down the field in the first half, I knew I was in trouble when they had to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns and only held a 13-7 lead at the half. The Ravens took the lead early in the second half and while the Patriots where still driving up and down the field, they started turning the ball over instead of even getting field goals, leaving me with a loss and down $205 for the playoffs.

  I’ve picked against the Ravens three times and lost three times in the playoffs (My record is 4-4). The Super Bowl is the most gambled on football game because it is the last chance for the gamblers to catch up on the season and I am no exception even though my bets are only for fun and no real money is at stake. I like the 49ers to win the Super Bowl, but since I clearly have no clue when it comes to picking games involving the Ravens, instead of picking a winner I’ll bet the ‘over’ and wager $330 that more than 47 points will be scored in the game by both sides combined using the line established by on the Yahoo Sports odds page If I lose I’ll be down $535 for the playoffs and if you ask me how I am I'll say “Not too good”, but if I win I’ll be ahead by $95 and when you ask me how I am, I’ll say “Not too bad” and that my playoff bets were “no problem” and that I “Had a good one”.